WITH the disappointing end to last season in the back of their minds, the Illaroo players were determined to produce one of their biggest seasons on the Shoalhaven District Football Association field to date.
However, all their hard work over the summer went to waste, when the 2020 Blackmore Bolden Shield was delayed due to COVID-10.
"We were looking good - we had plenty of numbers with a great attitude," said Illaroo coach Andrew Timbs.
"The boys were really putting in during the pre-season.
"However, when the news came through about the season being postponed, a lot of us were angry.
"It felt as though all our hard work and dedication, over the nine week, had gone down the drain, which was very hard to take."
The experienced Timbs didn't let his boys drop their heads.
"As annoyed as we all were, I explained to them how important it was to keep themselves fit, as the season could restart at any time," he said.
The Roos, along with the rest of the SDFA, got the all-clear to resume training last month, ahead of this Saturday's season kick-off.
"Everyone was over the moon to be back at training - you could see the excitement on each player's face," he said.
"Since we've returned, numbers have been strong because everyone just wants to get out there and play."
Timbs, before COVID, was looking forward to how a number of new additions were going to fit into his outfit.
However, with everything that's gone on, those recruits now have to work on weekends.
As disappointing as this is for the Sharman Park-based club, Timbs sees the silver lining.
"We have plenty of young guys coming through the ranks who deserve a chance at first grade," he said.
"I've been particularly impressed by Alex Cheyne - he's a class player and I believe he's up for a massive season."
This year's modified draw will see all first grade teams play each other once before the finals.
Timbs believes the modified draw could benefit Illaroo's premiership chances.
"We fell just short of finals last year, after being second or third for most of the season," he said.
"So the shorter format could definitely work in our favour.
"In saying that, the shorter season means you can't afford to have a slow start, so everyone knows we need to be ready to hit the ground from round one, if we want to be in that all-important top four.
"We need to play each week like it's a grand final.
"If we do that, I'm confident we can be there during the finals in September."